Tag Archive for: Leadership

As IT leaders continue to work through the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, CONVERGED is looking to bring insight and guidance to members. Today we’re sharing part one of a conversation we had with Sunny Arogunmati, VDI Principal Architect with Dell Technologies. In this part, Sunny describes the ways Dell Technologies is actively helping customers adapt to the needs of our current moment and his guidelines for maintaining business continuity while enabling a remote workforce.

CONVERGED: One of the biggest conversations right now surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic is business continuity. How is Dell Technologies addressing this challenge with VDI solutions?

SUNNY AROGUNMATI: When it comes to business continuity, a global pandemic is not the problem for which customers are most prepared. They’ve always prepared for data center and infrastructure destruction or natural disasters that could impact their physical IT footprint. Many corporations have spent their money on backups and have shunned remote workers, so they’ve pretty much shunned VDI as a priority for business continuity. But Dell is one of the few companies that has long ago introduced remote working internally and invested in remote working technologies such as VDI.

Dell has a turnkey-ready solution for VDI on all platforms, including VxRail, VxBlock, and XC Series. We’ve turned this into a single SKU called VDI Complete; essentially, a customer can request VDI Complete and it includes all the hardware and software packaged together. There are also “Ready Solutions” that are purpose-built and engineered for a particular workload. We have “Ready Solutions for VDI,” SAP, and Analytics.

In addition to that, we have produced several reference architectures for VDI applications (including Citrix) on all of our platforms. Customers can follow these reference documents for their own deployment and testing. We have also developed a great alliance with NVIDIA for our graphic solutions around healthcare, manufacturing, oil and gas, etc.

From a software or sustained productivity perspective, we’ve used VMware to enable workers to work from anywhere using any device as long as there’s a reliable internet connection. For example, in the medical field, we have applications that enable a doctor to access MRI scans or lab results from their tablet at home. All of this is made possible through VDI technology.

Next, we have the Dell Technologies Cloud, which makes it easier to extend the on-prem VDI to the cloud. For instance, most customers who have cloud services are using Azure or AWS, but they can’t really connect it to their on-prem. With Dell Technologies Cloud and VMware Cloud Foundation, customers can have their on-prem and extend it to the cloud. If you need to add capacity to the cloud, for example, with 600 desktops from Azure or AWS, that connection is already there.

CONVERGED: Is Dell Technologies doing anything specific to support customers right now?

AROGUNMATI: From a Dell perspective, we’re reformulating our VDI-pointed solutions to include COVID-19 needs. We know customers are looking for fast deployment, so we’re actively reaching out to them to understand how we can help. We’re also using the work-from-home model we’ve been using for over a decade as a way to provide some assurances that remote working as a norm is possible. Working from home is nothing new to us, so we want to share what we’ve done, how it’s changing, and provide a path for introducing those solutions. From a sales perspective, we’re telling our customers that working from home is a trend that may be here to stay.

In the corporate world, businesses are very good at spending money on yesterday’s problems, but we’re definitely learning new lessons in the age of COVID-19. For example, managers are learning that working from home is not as bad as they thought. Their employees are working more hours from anywhere, any day of the week, which leads to more productivity in some cases. Some employees are really liking that added flexibility.

Fast forward to after this pandemic, and I think more people will continue working from home. As a side effect, I think companies will think about reducing their real estate footprint because their in-office employees become fewer although their workforce continues to grow. If there’s no reduction in productivity with remote workers, why do you need to lease 10 floors of office space? This leads to a reduction in traffic congestion and environmental pollution, among other factors as well. I predict some employees will try to make working from home a permanent arrangement if they can, and we want to support customers who want to keep that option available.

CONVERGED: What scenarios optimize a faster or easier VDI deployment for an organization that needs to deploy ASAP?

AROGUNMATI: Well first, review and resize your current environment to the minimum configuration. This will free up space and allow you to provision space for VDI workloads today. If you look at VDI before it was a priority, IT leaders never really talked about it. Now it’s moving up the stack to become an essential service and I think this will continue growing even after this pandemic is over. Customers will have to reprioritize their workloads.

For example, if there are workloads you can shift to run at night or after business hours, you can use that space on the same hardware to run VDI workloads during production hours when everyone is online. Another path we can follow for customers who needed VDI yesterday is to add capacity via the cloud as a temporary solution.

CONVERGED: Is there a guideline for re-evaluating workloads to prioritize VDI?

AROGUNMATI: It depends—probably two of my favorite words ever. It will vary since production workloads will vary from one customer to another or from one industry to another. I would suggest prioritizing the business-critical workloads first. What needs to run during the day, during production time? What can run at night during non-production time when I can share the same hardware for different workloads?

The next step is to review the current hardware itself. Compute, storage, memory, network—can this take additional capacity for what I’m trying to do? Do I have enough storage for the VDI desktop itself? These are the kinds of questions we need to look at from a guidelines perspective.

This is the first part of a two-part series. For Part II, please click here.

This is the second part of a two-part series. For Part I, please click here.

As IT leaders continue to work through the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, CONVERGED is looking to bring insight and guidance to members. Today we’re sharing part two of a conversation we had with Sunny Arogunmati, VDI Principal Architect with Dell Technologies. In this part, Sunny shares his advice for newcomers to the VDI environment as well as insight for the future of VDI trends.

CONVERGED: What should IT decision makers who do not have a VDI environment understand about adapting to the new work-from-home norm in the midst of this pandemic?

SUNNY AROGUNMATI: First and foremost, IT decision makers need to realize the challenges of remote working post-pandemic and shouldn’t rush into decisions that will last for years to come. If you rush into deploying 10,000 VDI today just because you could, are you still going to need to use that in two or three years? They also need to think about challenges with product availability and lead times. We’re talking about supply chains—everything is coming from China, but if China is shut down for business, we can’t get new laptops or new servers.

Another thing to think about is network bandwidth. VDI requires network bandwidth and capacity; you cannot run VDI on 10 Gbps if you’re talking about thousands of users. You need something more along the lines of 25 Gbps or 40 Gbps. Security threats are another consideration; if the decision is rushed and security isn’t a priority, that could pose a problem. Obviously a lot of people are using Zoom right now for video conferencing, but anyone can join a private meeting if you don’t know how to configure the security settings.

A big consideration is applications. Not all applications are equal. Some can be virtualized in a VDI environment and some cannot. There are homegrown applications that have been working for the past 20 years and the developers want to keep it that way. Does virtualization interfere? At the same time, you have required SaaS applications that are also consuming bandwidth.

There are also a lot of workloads that may or may not require GPUs, especially in the medical field, or oil and gas. GPUs are becoming cheaper, but they’re still not cheap. When you compare them to the workstations, those aren’t cheap either. In a VDI environment, I can cut that down to a fourth of the cost.

Support services are something else to consider. If you’re going to VDI and your employees are working from home, how are your IT staff going to support your IT environment from home?

CONVERGED: Do any VDI use cases come to mind that could provide reassurance to customers in this time?

AROGUNMATI: All VDI use cases do provide reassurances to the customer one way or another. We have use cases for high graphical-intensive apps in the medical industry or manufacturing or oil and gas, where a customer needs to replace highly graphical workstations to allow the designers to work from home. Then at the low end, we have what’s called a shared desktop solution, which will scale to hundreds of users’ sessions on a single server. For example, a school system blocks unnecessary functions to only allow access to what’s most important, which means a lot of students are only using the school’s network to do what they need to get done for an assignment. It’s easier and cheaper for a school system to go the shared solution route.

If you look at the industry as a whole—the buzzwords in the IT industry at the beginning used to be about the cloud. If you have a 5-minute presentation and you don’t mention the cloud, people think you don’t know what you’re talking about. Then in the last few years, everything was about analytics. Let’s fast-forward: what’s going to happen in the next year or two? We could be hearing more about working from home. You may see a lot of work-from-home technologies popping up. All of a sudden, VDI is going to be at the forefront.

CONVERGED: So you see this as a much longer, sustained trend like all of the other buzzwords you’ve been hearing rather than just something that’s going to get us through this pandemic?

AROGUNMATI: Yes, but just like I said before, we’re good at solving yesterday’s problem. Once this is over, working from home becomes yesterday’s problem that everyone wants to spend time and resources on. They’re thinking about what they can do in case this happens again so they’re not caught with their pants down, and they’re investing in IT solutions accordingly.

A lot of these corporations are run by the old guards who want to see their employees working physically in the office. They think, “if I let them go home, who’s going to monitor what they’re doing?” In the new era, though, it’s all based on deliverables. As long as I’m making my deliverables, does it matter if I do it at 2am or 2pm? Does it matter if I’m working in the office or at a coffee shop? You’re going to see the trend of work-from-home discussed more and more, especially when you consider the benefits of higher employee productivity and smaller real estate costs.

CONVERGED: We’ve got VDI solving yesterday’s problems. Is there a way that VDI can also solve tomorrow’s unforeseen problems?

AROGUNMATI: VDI has always been solving problems, whether it’s yesterday’s, today’s, or tomorrow’s. I call VDI “the phoenix” because every time I’ve been told that VDI is dead, it keeps coming back. We’re talking about high server workloads and VDI rarely comes up as a high workload, but with COVID-19, you can’t access the other workloads from home without VDI. If you have 10,000 desktops sitting in a 10-story building that is locked down, how do you maintain productivity? VDI is the answer.

After this is over, one VDI challenge I think will stick around is telemedicine. I heard about telemedicine about 5 years ago—it never really gained momentum until now. Now, you’re going to see more family doctors and general practitioners shifting to telemedicine so they can address their patients’ symptoms without needing to see them in the office for something simple.

It’s a similar challenge with the entertainment and media industry; you think about local news stations that don’t have as big of a production budget as the bigger cable networks, but they’re still managing to deliver the important news we all need even though all of the reporters are in their own homes. It took a couple weeks for them to figure out how to maintain production quality – at first it seemed like a lot of them were only using the cameras on their laptops – but I think this is a scenario that will impact a lot of our media consumption moving forward. When news can be delivered from anywhere, the reporting opportunities become limitless.

Walter Baziuk, long-time CONVERGED User Group member and current member of the Board of Directors, recently sat down with the CONVERGED Team to share his experience with CI and the community we have cultivated around this infrastructure. Starting with the early user group days of VCE, Baziuk was among the few who formed the foundation of what CONVERGED is today.  He has seen the evolution of the technology first-hand, so he was able to share an up-close perspective of what it takes to make a smooth transition.

CONVERGED: Tell us about yourself. What was your journey like to get where you are now?

WALTER: Twenty years ago, there was a scattering of people and products in the infrastructure conversation. We needed servers, we needed storage, and we needed a way to connect all of the pieces with virtualization—something that started out rocky but has gotten much better over time. When I went to Cisco Live, I was introduced to VCE and I was initially skeptical about the newness of it. I wasn’t sure how something that was put together ahead of time would be able to meet my unique needs, but the idea of pre-cabled infrastructure stayed with me.

The next year at Cisco Live, VCE was still there and I think its growth could largely be attributed to the networking they did there. Then, the success of the technology paired with the reliability of VCE customer service and the fact that they would call individual companies if there was something that needed to be fixed created this enthusiasm and advocacy among customers for the solutions they had deployed.

As someone who has worked in government, I know most people in my industry do things the way they’ve always been done and it’s sometimes difficult to modernize or innovate. We started with VMware 3.5 and progressively updated to make it worth the investment. Throughout our journey, the capital investment grew higher, but I knew that buying everything as a system meant the operating cost would be less over time, in turn reducing our total cost of operation.

CONVERGED: What was one of your biggest takeaways from that experience?

WALTER: I think one of the biggest takeaways is that when trying to affect change with someone who is financially oriented, it’s best to present everything in context of TCO. While someone who is driving the transition to converged infrastructure might be more technically oriented and can see the benefits from an efficiency standpoint, the buy-in from someone who is financially oriented stems from TCO. They need to know how it’s going to affect the bottom line, and in that regard you have to understand how people think to be able to influence them.

CONVERGED: How were you introduced to the CONVERGED User Group?

WALTER: I actually got started with the user group before it was even formalized. Back then, it was a place we could gather to discuss products and provide feedback to Dell in a really casual setting. It’s still that to some extent, but now we have more programming and content offerings. Eventually after we had more people and even support from Dell EMC and VMware, we became the CONVERGED User Group with planned events and a formal membership structure.

CONVERGED: In your time as a member of CONVERGED and as a leader in our community, what do you think is the most valuable benefit of the User Group for its members?

WALTER: Definitely the ability to talk to other members and customers at events. The stories I’ve told and the ones I’ve heard have shaped the community into one based in trust and knowledge-sharing—we know that everyone is being candid in their testimonials and that helps us build a network of people we can look to for examples of what to do and what not to do.

Walter Baziuk has been a CONVERGED User Group Board Member since the community was first created. Walter joined the Canadian Federal Government in 2003, where he has played many roles and is currently a Senior System Architect in a department that has over 100,000 employees. He has spent 30+ years in the Telecom field and has worked for: Mitel, BNR, Mitel, and a small start-up Ceyba. In his hometown of Ottawa, ON, he enjoys woodworking, cooking, eating, biking and skiing. He and his wife enjoy travelling the continent and exploring outdoor activities in their Airstream trailer, The Silver Beatle. You can find Walter on Twitter and LinkedIn or you can reach out to him via email.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.

By: Suzan Pickett, VP/Director of Converged Infrastructure at U.S. Bank; Director, CONVERGED User Group

36 hours, six flights through cities nowhere near my destination, a freaky 2am cab ride past a body farm complete with a dead-body joke-cracking taxi driver, a checked bag with “the suit” that took more flights than I did, and when the job offer came, I am pretty sure it came down to this one question from the hiring manager. It’s what I still think of years later as the best question I’ve ever been asked during an interview.

After a few hours of sleep, followed by 8 hours of interviews with 25 different people I’m surprised I remember any of it. But as I sat down with the hiring manager over lunch, he asked me the question I go over most often in my head as I try and be the best I can be. I was in no way prepared for it, hadn’t prepped, but did walk away with a job offer, (which I regretfully declined due to reasons not related to the job). When you think back on an interview there is usually a pivot point when you think, “I got this”, or “oops”, we’ve all been there. I think this question was my pivot point to getting the offer.

There are a lot of different interview styles, formats, themes and personality detective questions out there, but the best question I ever had? Simple. And telling.

Can you tell me about a time when you had good leadership?

Can I? May I? YES. Ralph, who gave me my shot in IT as a young pre-Y2K wannabe, taught me about potential. How to recognize it, cultivate it and mentor those who have it. Ted and Diane, who taught me about collaboration, team work, and coaching the next generation of leadership. Mike, who taught me about thinking outside the box, to always enable and empower teams, remove roadblocks and make sure people have the tools needed to do their job. Yes. I can provide in depth examples of the people I owe my career to.

The trend about window washing, manhole covers and conference rooms filled with basketballs has possibly passed or maybe it was an urban myth? What I think makes a good interview question is a chance to get the candidate talking. This question has the potential to find out how people feel about past leadership and that says a lot about a person.

Hopefully everyone out there has a Ralph, Ted, Diane, and Mike. I’m glad I do.

Names have not been changed to protect the innocent. Thank you for being my long time mentors. Thank you for setting your teams up for success.

It might have been some kind of cursed trip because my return trip had 3 cancelled Uber’s, 2 cancelled taxis, one very talkative taxi driver with whom I now exchange holiday cards, a non-show flight, a rescheduled late flight that made me run through the Dallas airport at max speed (more like a fast desperate walk) and I got there right as the door was closing. Sweaty, I made it to my seat only to have the guy next to me complain because he wanted “that” seat. And then I promptly fell asleep.

Do you have “your best interview question”, if so, what was it?

After more than 3 years of involvement with the CONVERGED User Group, Jonathan Toulon (JT) has recently been named president of our Board of Directors. JT recently sat down with CONVERGED to tell us more about his experience with Dell Technologies products, his history with the user group, and the benefits he sees of being a member. JT’s employer, InComm, owns about 70% of the global market in prepaid and gift card transaction processing, charging JT with the responsibility of ensuring smooth operation and zero downtime for millions of customers every day. Internally, JT leads a lean team between the operations and engineering sides—52 people in total, with roughly 7 supporting converged and hyperconverged infrastructure. In total, his team manages eight vBlocks, three VxRack SDDCs, and two VxRails.

CONVERGED: How were you introduced to the CONVERGED User Group?

JT: My Dell account team saw the passion that I had for learning and understanding the technology. They always thought I had a really good voice around explaining it to executives and engineers, so they asked me if I wanted to speak at the CONVERGED User Group event during Dell Technologies World last year (April 2018). I agreed, and then I realized it was an actual customer panel and I had to go speak in front of hundreds of people. Around the same time, we filmed a bunch of videos for Dell Technologies explaining InComm’s IT transformation, which was cool. Opportunities like that are a good metaphor for what customers experience, how they can share their stories, and how they can provide their feedback directly to Dell.

C: How did you express interest in becoming a leader in the group?

JT: My leadership role has come about because of my advocacy for the product. I’ve talked to multiple prospective customers who were considering one of Dell EMC’s converged or hyperconverged products and connect with them on a personal level. When I tell my story, you know I’m not giving you fluff. Everything I’m going to tell you is accurate. I can tell you the bad, I can tell you the ugly, and I can tell you the good as well, and that’s with any product. With my CONVERGED experience specifically, I gave them the good, so they knew that the product did work and backed it up with concrete examples, and then I gave the other side of some of the concerns or some of the misses. In those misses, though, it allowed Dell EMC to grow because it provided valuable feedback about the products, how user-friendly they are, how easy or difficult it is to train someone on it, the operation model around it, etc. My dedication to the product and making it better for everyone involved is what set me on the path towards becoming president of the Board of Directors.

C: In your time as a member of CONVERGED and as a leader in our community, what do you think is the most valuable benefit of the User Group for its members?


JT: The most valuable benefit of being part of the user group is the feeling that you’re not in this by yourself. A lot of customers don’t realize that this network exists. They don’t understand that they’re not alone and that we can provide those resources that will help them be successful and grow and optimize their current teams.

Additionally, one thing all CONVERGED members should know is that we have access to Dell executives and product experts, so if they have issues or are looking for some type of guidance, you don’t have to Google the answer. You can come to the CONVERGED User Group and hear from people who have been in the exact same situation and have direction or advice to share. The research is built in.

C: How would you say CONVERGED has helped you in a professional capacity?

JT: Professionally, I’m exposed to a lot of different people and opportunities through the User Group. For example, public speaking has been a huge opportunity for me. My experience with podcasting has given me quite a bit of experience already but being in the User Group allows me to speak in front of large audiences even more. I’m able to share my story about why I’m an advocate for these products with other customers on a much larger scale than I would be able to otherwise. I also have a great opportunity to be a sponge around Dell executives and soak up their vision, which allows me to take a lot of the strategies they have and apply it to myself and my team so we can align our roadmaps and visions with the products themselves.

Jonathan Toulon (JT) has more than 13 years’ experience as an engineer and more than 3 years of involvement with CONVERGED. He currently serves as the Senior Director of Enterprise Engineering for InComm, a global leader in the prepaid products and payment technology industry. He was recently named president of CONVERGED User Group’s Board of Directors. Outside of work and CONVERGED, JT spends his time golfing, watching one of his 400 DVDs, podcasting with his wife, spending time with his two kids, and running a photo booth business. You can find JT on Twitter at @boywonderJT.

Tag Archive for: Leadership

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